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July 13, 2004

Thomas Bjorn


STEWART McDOUGALL: Ladies and gentlemen, we have Thomas Bjorn. Thank you for coming across. You've been here a few days. Tell us how your preparation is going, and the way you've seen the course playing.

THOMAS BJORN: Start with the course. There's no doubt that in a time where we try for golf courses that are very difficult and tricky, this is probably the best I've seen in a major championship in a long, long time. The golf course is magnificent. It's played the way an open golf course is supposed to be played. You hit it in the rough and you're faced with shots you can't get to the green and sometimes you're faced with big flyers. And that's just the way it should be. The greens are as good as British Open greens have ever been. So in all, the golf course is just -- they've just got it absolutely spot on. So that's a big plus.

My preparations are going better than I expected, I would say. I felt I played really well last week. I didn't putt very well over the weekend, but that's more or less one that I haven't had for a long time. I played good golf at Loch Lomond and didn't get the ball in the hole. I think as a professional golfer you would rather see that, putting well and shooting 73. I feel comfortable with that. I'm starting to hit a lot of good shots, and I actually feel walking around out here I feel very comfortable out here on this golf course. So from that it's going in the right direction. But I just need for Thursday to arrive so we can get off and hope that I can keep that game going that I had last week, and I had these practice rounds and I'll be fine. I really feel comfortable about it.

Q. How do you go from such a State of frustration that you were in a couple of weeks ago to the point now you're feeling comfortable about your golf game?

THOMAS BJORN: Well, it's a question of really clearing out all the things that are going on, going back with Pete Cowen, sitting down, talking to him. I've kept him very close to me, pretty much ever since Ireland. He's been around me at the times I needed him. I also had a little time of my own to have some feeling again, but I kept Pete very close to me. And Billy, my caddy, we talked a lot. I've just been having the right people around me. I've not been looking for anybody, I've just been trusting what we've been doing. And I also know that the way I play the game is that it can change very much from one week to another week, which I think I proved from Ireland to Scotland.

And I also know that when I've got confidence I can turn it around very quickly. When I start seeing a couple of good shots being hit I start believing very quickly in myself. But it's just a question of clearing out, I think. I think, as I said, the players are often very guilty of going searching for things that don't exist. And I've been very guilty of that. I think you need to just stick with what you're good at and just do that a little bit better, and that's what I'm trying to do. It's come quicker than I thought. For me, that's just a good sign. It's a sign that I'm now doing the right things.

I feel like I'm hitting the ball so well on the driving range. There's still a couple of issues on the golf course, but I mean compared to two weeks ago, it's -- I'm very happy with where I am at the moment. It's just been a question of staying very close to the right people for me.

Q. You used the phrase, "having the right people around me," which is the perfect entre to talk about your pairing. You have Colin Montgomerie around you on Thursday. And we obviously have made much of the incidents you two have had on the golf course. Can you talk about the state of that relationship and whether or not you two did, in fact, dine last night?

THOMAS BJORN: We did dine last night. And it was quite entertaining. I said in Bangkok, these are things that happen on the golf course sometimes, players have a difference of opinion and some players will voice their opinion and some won't. I voiced my opinion to Monty there. We dealt with it there and then, and it's over with. We've had dinner plenty of times since then. We've always had a good relationship and we will continue to have a good relationship. We had dinner last night and everything was as it's always been. And I think it's just making an issue out of something that's -- yeah, it's over and done with, and it was in January.

I don't really see -- the story was there, then. And bringing it up now because we got paired together, me and Monty have been paired together a thousand times, and we'll be paired again together. If we're going to sit and answer questions about an incident, then, well, it's a waste of our time and I think it's dying out slowly. So let's live with it this time again, but in the future, I don't think it's worth the story, I really don't. We have a great relationship and we always will.

Q. Thomas, now we're back in an Open environment. Have you had flashbacks to last year or even, dare I mention it, snowball dreams?

THOMAS BJORN: No, not at all. I'm happy being at an Open Championship. And I think with my record at the British Open I have to be happy being back at an Open Championship. I've tried twice. I have two other Top 10s. I know I can play British Open golf. I have to be happy being here. I'm starting to feel confident about my game, is another thing I have to feel happy about. Hopefully it will all come together. Hopefully I'll stand on that first tee and be there, and having all the right feelings.

You can't run away from what happened last year. It will always be there. But as I said to you, it's a question for me to go out and be comfortable in major championships, not only in The British Open, but in major championships, and go out and be in the mix of things and those things will slowly disappear. I have goals in my career and one of them is to win major championships. So I can't live in 2003. If I want to win a major championship, I have to live now and I have to live in the future. And that's what I'm trying to do. As I said to you last week, I've got great memories from the '03 British Open. I played some of the best golf of my life and I have to use those things for playing this week. I know I can play British Open golf. I know I can play when it gets really, really tough as it was on that golf course last year. So why not go out and enjoy it.

There's a lot of people that come in here and have different thoughts about playing British Open golf courses. They find it very, very difficult. At least I know when I go in here that, yeah, it is difficult, but I know I can play it and so I should go in with good thoughts about it.

Q. What you were doing with Pete Cowen is almost -- when you said you had him totally with you all the time, it was almost psychological rather than the swing.

THOMAS BJORN: We worked on a couple of things in the swing, the old thoughts I used to work on with Pete. It is psychological because I know with Pete, I know he can get me to good places, I know that. With a new coach, yeah, I know there's a lot of great coaches out there, and if I had the time to spend with them, we could go great places, but if you're in the position I was in, you can't spend the time, you need to start seeing results very quickly, and with Pete I know I can see results quickly. I know he can get me to one of the great places. He did it with Darren and with Lee in the past. He can do it with me, he's done it with me. There's no reason why not.

I won't go searching this time for something that doesn't exist. When we get to the high level and playing consistent with a high level, I won't go searching for something that's not out there. I'll just believe that. Get me to a higher level and keep working on those things and then you'll move up a notch every time, and that's what I need to do, not trying to find something that's just nonexistent.

Q. Did he identify anything straight away?

THOMAS BJORN: Yeah, there's a couple of things in my golf swing that was not the way it should be. I've gotten very -- I got very much into using my upper body as a rotation in my back swing, which is completely wrong for me, because I have very lively legs in my golf swing. If I don't use my legs correctly from the start of the swing, then they're going to determine the outcome of the golf swing, and that wasn't the right way. So I'm very happy with the work we're doing. It's very simple, as well.

Q. You talked a couple of times about the whole search for what isn't there. What is it that you find yourself searching for and how do you end up reconciling yourself to the fact that whatever you're searching for isn't in fact there?

THOMAS BJORN: Well, I think you sometimes go searching for the perfect golf swing. I've been very much that way all my career. When I look at a video camera I would like to see my golf club in certain positions. One thing that I did when I went back from Ireland was I looked at a couple of tapes from tournaments I won when I played really, really well.

One thing that goes through all those tournaments is that the golf club is not in perfect position in any of those tournaments. It's in good positions, but it's not in perfect positions. And I think even at those times when I played really well, I'm still searching to make my golf swing better, instead of accepting that if I worked with this golf swing, and tried to put it there so it's there all the time, then I can play at a consistent, high level. I start searching for something better that I can play at, an even higher level. The highest level I can play at is good enough, it's just that I don't play it often enough. I think at times you're very guilty of trying to perfect your golf swing. I think a lot of players are guilty of that and a lot of players out there don't give a dam about their golf swing, and they play with what they've got, and that's why we see odd looking golf swings doing well, and a lot of golf swings doing well at times. But I think you need to be within certain areas to play consistently well. And I think guys that swing the golf club within those barriers are the guys at the top of the tree. They're the guys that consistently perform.

And I also believe that you can play good golf with a very odd looking golf swing. But I've been looking for things -- I'm a very natural swinger of the golf club. And sometimes we get too much into the neck, and I don't let my natural talent come out. And that's why I need to get away from that. I need to just sometimes say hang on a second, I'm hitting the ball well, I'm swinging the golf club well enough. Not well, but -- not great, but well enough to play well. And that's sometimes what you have to go with.

You're not going to get a new golf swing on Thursday morning. You have to play with what you've got and go out and enjoy that. And I fell that my natural talent as well can take me a long way.

Q. Which videos were you watching?

THOMAS BJORN: I watched a video from last year's Open, where I believed I swung the club very well. And a video from Dubai. I watched a 1996 Loch Lomond video. Those times obviously stand out for me where I felt good about myself and I looked at the swing there and I thought it's not much different from what it is today and it certainly is not perfect all the time, but I hit the ball so well with that golf swing, so why not try and just be happy with what I've got at the moment, instead of trying to find something too quickly, as well.

Q. We just had PhilMickelson in here who's never finished in the top 10 in this event. Why do you think some golfers are so much better in The Open than other majors?

THOMAS BJORN: Links golf is different. It's played a lot longer, along the ground. This is not on Phil, because I believe he has more imagination than anybody in the world, but you need a lot of imagination. You need to see the right kind of shots out there. You're going to be faced with situations that are a bit strange for golfers. We don't see ourselves in those positions a lot of times, a lot of very difficult lies. So I think it's more a mental thing that you come in here and you've not had the greatest experiences playing in this championship. And then you kind of -- it becomes a bit difficult.

A lot of guys feel that way with Augusta. They go in there and they never played well there, they can't see themselves getting around that golf course. It's the same with this tournament. I mean I feel some of these courses I can't get around them, some of the golf courses I feel great on. The golf course has a lot to do with it here. But from Phil, specifically, I mean he should do well here. He has the imagination, he has all the game, and he's one of the finest players in the world. There shouldn't be any reason for him not to do well here.

Q. Ernie was in here a little while ago, and we were talking about a few years back when Tiger was on that incredible run of his, how a lot of the players, the top players came into the major championships wondering what is Tiger going to do this week, because my best might not be enough to win. Do you remember at all during that stretch feeling that way, and do you feel that aura has changed a little bit now?

THOMAS BJORN: I played with him at Pebble on Saturday in the last group, and I tell you I certainly felt like that. I felt like, how are we ever going to beat this guy, the way he played. But I think that -- I think everybody else has raised their game. I think everybody else sees them playing better than they used to.

Tiger will be back to his dominant, if not this week, very soon, I'm sure of that. But I just think everybody else sees themself being able to play better, and play to that level. I don't think it's so much that -- because I think he will raise his game to that level again, and they will have to play better to have a chance against him. But I think we all -- I think that was the thing, everybody raised their game. It's not as easy to win a golf tournament as it was. It's become much more difficult. And there's a lot more players out there now that see themselves not shooting 10-under, they see themselves shooting 20, 25-under on fairly difficult golf courses.

You have to play your absolutely best to win golf tournaments nowadays, and you didn't have to ten years ago. You could go out and not play your absolutely best and still win. We all talked about how you felt, that sometimes you played your absolutely best and you finished -- you felt like you finished 10th, but sometimes you felt like you played not very well and you won golf tournaments. But now when you win you felt like you played out of your skin. Tiger has raised that bar, that's for sure.

Q. On the same subject, on Tiger, what you've said about the swing, and this quest for the perfect swing is fascinating, should we be so concerned for his quest for a swing and his apparent lack of it at the moment, or should --

THOMAS BJORN: I'll take his golf swing at the moment. I don't think it's as poor as it's been made out to be. I think when you look at his golf swing -- and I look at his golf swing quite often, and I think it looks very, very good. I still think he hits the ball better than anybody I see out there.

I don't know, obviously the fact is that he doesn't win as often as he used to. But every golfer goes through a period of time where they might not win as many golf tournaments. That doesn't mean that they're not hitting the ball as well or doing the right things. And maybe he'll just come back a little bit stronger than he was before. It might be he's just on the other side of his period that he's going through. And I think whenever he starts winning golf tournaments again, he'll start winning a lot of golf tournaments again, it's not like he'll win one and go off again. He'll come back and win a lot. The guy is 100 percent class. He's the best thing we've ever seen in this thing, and it's as simple as that. You can't keep that down. He will win a lot of golf tournaments, and I think -- he just needs to get going again and get that thing in his belly again where he just wins golf tournaments. When he wins, he just seems not to be able to stop winning. And that's not been there, because he hasn't won for a while. It's as simple as that. But he will do that, and he's 100 percent class.

Q. Is it more likely to see one disastrous hole, such as your double bogey, in The British Open, and if so, why?

THOMAS BJORN: No, I think it happens -- it's happening in so many majors, not only The British Open, but it's happened in so many majors through time that it will happen again. It will happen in all the Majors. The British Open seems to have been throwing a few things at us the last few years. But it happens. It's a double bogey at the wrong time. And no matter how much I sit here and try to explain that it could happen on the fourth hole in the first round and nobody could remember, that's just the way golf is. But when it happens over the closing holes and it happens to the guy that leads the golf tournament then it becomes a big issue and it becomes a guy that's out there choking. It becomes the guy that can't handle anything or it becomes a big disaster.

This is golf. Those things happen in golf. And that's why the game is great. That's why it's never simple to play this game. And you just have to accept that that's going to happen. And it happened to me, and I accepted it happened. And I understand you guys would like to hear what goes on in our heads and what we're going through when those things happen. But we don't really deal with it with the way the outside world looks at it. I think we just say, well, all right, that's a blow to everything, but then we go on from there and try and not do it.

When you're in that situation, I don't think people understand how focused we are. You don't almost have time to be nervous. You're so focused and determined on what you have to do. And all of a sudden these things happen. And you're standing there and it's almost a surprise to yourself when these things happen, because when you're in that situation you're playing so well and you're so focused that you don't actually think that those things can happen.

You're just so very much -- I almost feel like my head is in the ground. I don't see anything. My eyes are always in the ground. And that's exactly the way I felt last year. I didn't see anything. I was very focused. And I never thought about things that could happen to me over the last closing holes that could be disastrous or anything. I just thought, just keep hitting one shot at a time.

I was surprised when it happened because it came out of the blue because I played so well. I didn't feel like -- I didn't feel nervous in the sense that I didn't feel like I could handle it. But you are nervous, but you are nervous in a good way, and you're nervous because you're playing so well. And you're seeing things inside yourself that you've been working so hard to get into. But it's golf and it will happen in British Opens, but it will also happen somewhere else. And that's just the way it is. You've got to live with it.

Q. The draw with Colin, do you enjoy playing with Colin? Do you wind each other up? Do you share a joke with each other?

THOMAS BJORN: I've been fortunate in a sense. When I came on Tour in '96, Monty was -- I mean was undoubtedly No. 1 in Europe, and was maybe just at that time maybe the best player in the world. And when I came out of one quite early in my career, and we have a great thing on the European Tour, when young players come out and play well very quickly they seem to get drawn a lot with the best players on this Tour. And I got drawn with Monty, I mean, almost every week, late '96 and through '97. And I was a member of that Ryder Cup team in '97 where he was a big part of it. So I've been very close to him. I've seen a lot of him.

No matter what you think, we're actually very good friends. But sometimes there come situations where I've grown from '96, when I came out from being a rookie and feeling like a little kid on Tour, to 2004 where I feel like I've been through a lot of things, and I have my own views on things. We disagreed on something and I stated my opinion very clearly. But that doesn't take away from us being friends. And we spend a lot of time together. I played '96, '97, '98, '99, played every single practice round with Monty in the Majors. So we don't go from that situation to a completely different situation where we can't actually go out and play golf together, because I think a lot of Monty as a player and as a person, and I always will, and I always have. And it's as simple as that. And yeah, we had a difference of opinion.

Q. So do you feel that this week you could help each other through?

THOMAS BJORN: I think it's good for us. I think -- not that I'm going to compare myself to any situation Monty is in, because he's gone through a time where it's been difficult, and that's much more worse than the time I've gone through on the golf course. But we do often bring out the best in each other. We've played a lot of good golf together and we very much are alike in that sense, that if we play with guys that are playing well, we seem to get going. So we could bring out some good things in each other this week, and we will have a good time on the golf course.

Q. What you were saying about last year's championship, how well you were playing, the frame of mind you were in where you felt your head was on the ground, how much of a test of it is for you not to be scarred by what happened?

THOMAS BJORN: I put it behind me. That's as simple as that. I've put that tournament behind me. I'm looking to the future. I love this game. I've always loved it. I love this championship. And that's what I'm looking to. I love playing this championship, as long as I can. I've played with guys over the last few weeks that have played this championship much more than I have, and they're not here this week. And I can see how much it hurts them not to be here.

For a European golfer, this is the golf tournament in the world. No, I don't think that would have any -- I don't think I'll look back at my career when I'm finished with it and say, well, the 2003 Open has put big marks and dents in my career. It will be a thing that happened on the way of a long and hopefully very, very successful career. And I'll be very happy with having that experience, as well, because I believe at this moment in time I am going to have good experiences in this game.

You've got to be as good at losing, if you're going to be a good winner. And I feel like I'm great at losing, but I also feel like I'm great at winning. And that's what I want -- I want to win like any other player out here. But you've got to be able to handle the losing situations very well. But you're never going to win more than your fair share. I think a guy that loses well is going to win a lot more than guys that don't lose well.

Q. Can you explain to me why there is so much emphasis placed by both us and you on the 70th hole of last year's Open? You incurred a 2-shot penalty for whacking the sand earlier in the week, which had a similar effect on the result. That doesn't seem to be mentioned at all.

THOMAS BJORN: Glad you brought that up. We dealt with that last year, as well. I think those are things that happened. As I said before, when it happens in the first round or the second round we don't tend to look at it as much and say that that was the win or loss of the tournament. Ben Curtis played better than anybody else through the tournament. That's why he won.

Things happen during a round and you have to say these things happened. The tournament always turns out almost every time to be very tight. If I had led with two shots going into the third round, I led with three shots going into the last round, things would have been different. Other players would have played with different pressure, and they would have played differently. So the tournament might have turned out totally differently.

So you've got to be very -- we've got to keep very much attention and focus on the golf tournament, 72 holes. And it goes with how you're playing. If you're trailing with five shots you're going to play differently than if you're trailing by one or leading by one. So I don't think that that's much of an issue.

I mean, you can look back at things -- I missed a two-foot putt. What happened if I hadn't missed that? I holed it from 40 yards. What would have happened if I hadn't holed that. We can keep on going. We can go through every single golf shot that I made in the tournament, and we can say, is that where the golf tournament was lost.

Q. I believe you had a conversation with Mark Roe the following week, didn't you, after the tournament, you met up in Ireland?

THOMAS BJORN: I had a conversation with a lot of people.

Q. Well, do you recall whether you were amazed at how well he had coped with what happened with him and vice-versa?

THOMAS BJORN: I think again it comes down to the players, how we deal with things and how the outside world thinks we're going to deal with it a lot differently than we do. I think we accept much easier what happens to us because we know it's golf. And the Mark Roe thing is one of those things that -- the rules are the rules of the game and we live by the rules because it's so much down to ourselves in the game. We're the only ones that keep track of our score, we're the only ones that have to call everything on ourselves. So we're very much -- we very much have to abide by the rules, and live by those rules that are set out. It's also very difficult to bend the rules when you have a situation like that. Even if you think it's stupid or not, we have to live with those rules. I think Mark knows that as well as anybody. And that's why he handled it and realized this is what happens.

Golf is like that. There was a guy that won The Masters and didn't win The Masters because of a score card incident. That's just the rules of the game. And it happens. And you deal with it. And you also realize if you deal with it in a good way that that almost gives you something to carry on with, instead of if you get down on yourself because of what happens. And it's difficult to dig yourself out. You've got to deal with it as a man and say this is what happened and go on from here, look to the future.

Q. I thought you would remember it well. Don't I remember you saying or he saying that you talked?

THOMAS BJORN: Yeah, I remember that we had a conversation, but at that point in time I think I was having conversations with people where, yeah, you obviously felt at the time that maybe it wasn't exactly what you wanted. So you're very focused on your own thing, and Mark was very focused on his thing.

Q. Reading the headlines, here, whether or not you are friends or not friends with Monty, and everybody is asking you about last year's British Open, and I'm wondering what impact does that have on you, all these outside distractions on you going into this year's British Open? Seems like everybody is focused on whether you're friends with another golfer and what you did or didn't do last year.

THOMAS BJORN: I think obviously I would have liked to have been with better results coming in. I said last week, it might not happen last week or this week, but it will happen, because I'm going down the right track. I have no expectations for this week. I know that two weeks ago I was in a state where golf wasn't the greatest thing for me. So I can't go out with high expectations. I feel like I'm playing well. I feel like I'm hitting the ball well. And that's the only thing I can take with me. I knew pretty much in the end of July last year that when I came to this Open there was going to be a little bit of focus on what happened last year. I've been preparing for it, it's not like it's come as a big surprise to me. I kind of dealt with it on the way, and I don't have any problems talking about it and dealing with those issues. I will go out and be very determined to play well for the future and leave that Open behind me.

And I think you're in a situation when this Open goes away, whoever wins it, well, then, some new stories will appear from this British Open and it won't die, but it will disappear a little more, and in ten years time we'll remember me like a guy that didn't win at Sandwich, but hopefully I won somewhere else, and that will be that. But that will always be with me.

But as I said before, I'll look at it as a memory, but a lot of good things happening, as well. But I'm very happy with where I am with my golf at the moment and that I think is a big positive for me when I stand on that first tee on Thursday. And with regards to Monty, there's nobody I would rather play with this week.

STEWART McDOUGALL: Thank you very much.

End of FastScripts.

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